Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Reminder: 1926 Louise Brooks film, The Show Off, screens in Chicago area on Jan 10

The little seen Louise Brooks film, The Show Off (1926), will be screened in St. Charles, Illinois one week from today, on January 10, 2023. This screening, presented by the Silent Film Society of Chicago, will include a live theatre organ score performed by Jay Warren. More information about this event can be found below.

The Show-Off is gem. The film is a satiric comedy about an insufferable braggart who disrupts the life of a middle-class family. While remembered today as a Louise Brooks film, The Show-Off is really a vehicle for Ford Sterling, a comedian best remembered for his starring work as a member of the Keystone Kops. As a broad comedian, he is the perfect choice for the role of the titular blowhard Aubrey Piper. Brooks plays a supporting role as the love interest of the boy who lives next door. Based on a popular stage play by an acclaimed playwright, The Show-Off was considered a prestige project — and thus drew a significant amount of critical attention along with inevitable comparison to its Broadway namesake. 

A bit of trivia: 

 — The Show-Off (1924) was authored by Philadelphia-born George Kelly (1887–1974), an American playwright, screenwriter, director, and actor. Besides being the uncle of the Oscar winning actress Grace Kelly (the future Princess Grace of Monaco), George Kelly was considered by some (Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, and others) as one of the finest  dramatists of the 1920s — alongside the likes of Sherwood Anderson and Elmer Rice. Besides The Show-Off, Kelly was best known for Craig’s Wife (1925), which won the Pulitzer Prize and was made into a motion picture on three occasions. His first play, The Torch Bearers, was also highly regarded.

The Show-Off was the hit of the 1924 Broadway season, where it ran 571 performances. Famed critic Heywood Broun called it “the best comedy which has yet been written by an American.” The play’s success drew the attention of the motion picture stuudios, and in October, 1925 Paramount had a synopsis of the play written by F. M. Macconnell and others.

— Widely acclaimed, The Show-Off was in the running to receive the 1924 Pulitzer Prize for drama, but last minute dealings denied Kelly the award. According to various books, the Pulitzer drama committee recommended Kelly’s work for the prize, but the higher ranking Pulitzer Advisory board overruled their selection for reasons which were never made clear. One book, Chronicle of the Pulitzer Prizes for Drama: Discussions, Decisions and Documents, notes “In the following year, 1924, the recommendation of the jurors was brief and concise…  ‘The Committee have decided that the Pulitzer Prize for the best current American play should go to The Show-Off by George Kelly. We think this is an extremely good and original American play.’ But before the Advisory Board could discuss the suggestion of the jury, a docent of Columbia University [the institution which awarded the prize], although neither a member of the jury nor member of the Advisory Board, intervened and spoke out against it’s verdict. He ‘wrote privately to (Columbia University) President Butler … to protest the Drama Jury’s selection of George Kelly’s satirical comedy… Instead… (he) called for a prize for Hell-Bent for Heaven, a hillbilly drama set in the Kentucky mountains, by a fellow member of the Columbia faculty, Hatcher Hughes.” Kelly was vindicated two years later when Craig’s Wife won the award.

The Show-Off  enjoyed New York revivals in 1932, 1950, 1967, and 1992, with regional theatrical runs in 1930, 1941, 1975 and 1978. The play was the basis for motion pictures of the same name made in 1926, 1934 (with Spencer Tracy), and 1946 (with Red Skelton), as well as the 1930 film Men Are Like That (directed by Frank Tuttle). There was also a radio adaption in 1953.

— As happened in at least a few instances, a theatrical production of The Show-Off was being staged in major cities at the same time as Paramount’s film version was shown. In San Francisco, California a stage production starring Louis John Bartels as Aubrey Piper proved especially popular, with the cast of the play invited to view the film when in opened locally. Bartels (who originated the role on Broadway) later went on to act in films, including The Canary Murder Case (1929).

— C.W. Goodrich, who plays Pop Fisher in the film, originated the role on Broadway when it opened at the Playhouse Theater in February of 1924.

The Show-Off is one of two films that co-starred the popular Broadway actor Gregory Kelly (no relation), who died shortly after The Show-Off finished production. Gregory Kelly was the first husband of actress Ruth Gordon.

Louise Brooks and Gregory Kelly

The Louise Brooks Society™ blog is authored by Thomas Gladysz, Director of the Louise Brooks Society. (www.pandorasbox.com). Original contents copyright © 2023. Further unauthorized use prohibited.

1 comment:

Louise Brooks Society said...

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